6 Things To Know Before You Try Anal Sex

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
So you want to try anal sex. That's great! Anal play can be lots of fun — if you're ready for it. Unlike other types of sex, which most people can fumble their way through when they don't have much experience, anal sex takes some research. (And, to be clear, it's always better to think and talk through any new sexual experience before you try it with a partner).
But you can't just slide into anal sex (unless you're using plenty of lube...but more on that later). If you don't know what you're doing and you aren't careful, you could hurt yourself or your partner because the anus is sensitive. "Contrary to what many believe, anal sex does not have to be painful (unless people engaging in it want it to be)," says Dulcinea Pitagora, a sex therapist known as the Kink Doctor. So before you give anal a try, read our tips about how to prep, both physically and mentally.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Talk before, during, and after

Just like any sexual experience, it's important to talk with your partner about your desires and what you want to get out of the play before you get started, to make sure that everyone involved has given their full consent and is on the same page.

Then, be communicative during the sex, too. If something hurts (in a not-good way), speak up. Your partner doesn't know how you're feeling and since you're trying something new, it's more important than ever to tell them what feels good and what doesn't.

Afterward, keep the conversation going. There's a practice in BDSM communities called aftercare, which essentially means debriefing the experience and checking in with your partner. It might feel awkward, but talking about the bits of the experience that were uncomfortable or even painful can help make anal sex better next time.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Lube, lube, lube

Unlike vaginas, buttholes don't produce their own lubrication — so you have to help them along. Pitagora suggests using a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide. If you're not using silicone sex toys, you can also use a silicone-based lubricant, which tends to be more slick and lasts longer. But, if you're using condoms, avoid oil-based lubricants (like Vaseline) because they can damage the condom.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Start slowly

Maybe you're super excited to try anal and you want to get right in there — don't. It's always best to start slowly with a new sexual experience, but is especially important when you're trying anal sex because the sphincter muscles in an anus are tightly closed. So, instead of jumping in with a penis or sex toy, have your partner stick one (lubed up!) finger inside your rectum first. Then, slowly add more fingers until you're ready to move on to penetration with a penis or with a strap-on.

The other benefit of starting slow is that you'll build arousal, Pitagora says. "Use slow and gentle stimulation of the area around the anus, the anus, the area just inside the anus, and of the prostate (if your partner has one)," they say. Being fully aroused makes any sexual experience better, but in the case of anal sex it will also help you relax.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Get dirty (or don't)

One of the biggest trepidations people have about trying anal sex is that "that's where the poop comes from." But that's actually not 100% true, Pitagora says. "Concerns about dirtiness or messiness are not as relevant as you might think because feces are not stored where anal sex happens (near the anus and rectum), but in the upper bowels," they say.

Of course, it is possible that you might encounter a little poop, especially if the receiving partner hasn't had a bowel movement recently (and so, fecal matter may have moved lower in your colon) or if there's residue from a previous bowel movement. Maybe a little poop isn't a big deal to you or your partner — that's great! But if it is, you can take steps to make sure there's no fecal residue left before you get started. "Most people don't regularly have much residue in their rectum, but when they do, the issue can be rectified (pun intended) by anal douching or washing prior to anal sex," Pitagora says.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Use protection

Unless you're fluid-bonded with your partner (meaning that you've both been tested for STIs, have been cleared, and aren't having sex with anyone else), there's risk for contracting STIs with any type of unprotected sex — including anal. "Unprotected anal intercourse is high-risk for many sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, HPV, and hepatitis," according to Planned Parenthood. So, please use condoms. Even if you're using a strap-on, it's important to use condoms if the toy has been used with multiple partners.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Relax

It can be scary when you're trying something new, especially when it involves a body part you're not use to anyone touching. But try to relax as much as possible, because it will make anal sex better, Pitagora says. "Anoreceptive sex is enhanced by an openness to the experience, trust of the insertive partner, an associated sense of arousal, and the ability to overcome the stereotypical taboo," they once wrote in a paper. Bottom line, do whatever it takes to feel as comfortable as possible, because when you're relaxed you'll enjoy the experience more.
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